ZIMBABWE People First leader Dr Joice Mujuru fell out with her lieutenants over her failure to account for membership subscriptions and funds donated to the party by foreign elements, our Harare Bureau has gathered.
ZimPF has been unwinding like thread on a spindle since last Wednesday when Dr Mujuru purportedly expelled seven of the party’s founders, accusing them of being Zanu-PF functionaries. The seven — among them Messrs Didymus Mutasa, Rugare Gumbo and Munacho Mutezo — in turn rejected Dr Mujuru’s leadership and said she was an interim head with no power to fire anyone. A day later, three high-ranking officials, Messrs Ray Kaukonde, Sylvester Nguni and Agrippa Mutambara, resigned.
ZimPF insiders told our Harare Bureau that tensions had been simmering for months. They said top officials were initially upbeat about ZimPF’s future under Dr Mujuru, but began to increasingly question her leadership capacity after internal and external interactions exposed her “serious limitations”.
Among their reservations were a proposed coalition with the MDC-T and participating in last month’s Bikita West National Assembly by-election, which the party lost heavily to Zanu-PF. Matters came to a head when Dr Mujuru allegedly failed to account for donations she received in South Africa, Sweden and the United Kingdom on behalf of ZimPF in 2016.
Her “evasiveness” regarding membership subscriptions totalling US$20 000 did not help the situation either, and the stage was set for last week’s showdown. ZimPF spokesperson Mr Jelousy Mawarire failed to comment on this, instead launching a tirade in which he accused Zanu-PF; Secretary for Information, Media and Broadcasting Services Mr George Charamba; and The Sunday Mail and its sister paper The Herald, of “trying to destabilise our party”.
He said, “The way you are covering this issue is confirming what we have aways suspected; that George Charamba and your newspapers want to destroy our party. You stupid journalists are being used by Charamba and Zanu-PF. We now know that those old people (Mutasa and Gumbo) are Zanu-PF projects.”
However, an insider told our Harare Bureau , “One always saw this coming. Emotions were running high weeks before we contested in the Bikita West by-election. Some did not want us to participate, arguing that the party was not in good stead to take on Zanu-PF. This is where Mujuru’s leadership should have shone, but she appeared bent on pleasing (MDC-T leader Mr Morgan) Tsvangirai blindly and at whatever cost. Tsvangirai wanted to use our performance in Bikita to gauge our strength as a party. Therefore, she wanted to prove a point, something others in ZimPF did not agree with.”
Another added, “This is politics, and such issues could have been sorted out within no time. But the real issue that has caused all this turmoil is control of the purse. She appeared comfortable with keeping everyone in the dark on financial matters.
Remember, she visited three countries last year, managing to secure some donations. However, no one knows what happened to that money or subscriptions we got from membership card sales.The party is broke; people have been using their own vehicles to run party affairs. There are no offices at provincial and district level. The fallout is really all about money and how it was being used. ZimPF coffers are dry and Mujuru is to blame.”
Our Harare Bureau caught up with Engineer Mutezo, Mr Mutambara and former ZimPF women’s affairs leader Ms Margaret Dongo as they explored strategies going forward; alongside Messrs Mutasa, Gumbo and Kudakwashe Bhasikiti and Colonel (Retired) Claudius Makova at ZimPF’s headquarters in Harare last Friday.
Eng Mutezo, who was in charge of finance in the united ZimPF, accused Dr Mujuru of running the party like a “backyard tuckshop” and diverting funds to personal use.
“I was in charge of the party’s funds. Our problems with her leadership qualities started when she left the country with a begging bowl heading to the United Kingdom, Middle East and South Africa without the knowledge of the executive. What I know is we have sold over 20 000 membership cards since the formation of the party, but if you check the balance sheet, you will be shocked. God only knows what happened to that money. At one point, we called for accountability and suggested mechanisms to plug leakages, but she was adamant and did not want to comply as she was also picking from the same cookie jar. Investigations later revealed that she was working with a syndicate of provincial co-ordinators.”
Mr Mutambara chipped in, “She does not respect accountability. She always defended underhand dealers who are using her to source funds. And she has not been open about how much money was raised (from international trips); even to the treasurer of the party. If one questioned her on such matters, she would become hostile.”
Ms Dongo added: “When we said people must account for the money they abused or misused, she would protect those people.
Imagine what would happen if she were to be the President of this country? A person who spends time with street dealers and takes them for advisors cannot surely lead. It’s sad.”
Former ZimPF youth chair Mr Luckson Kandemiri said, “One of her problems is the feeling of entitlement. The party became her personal project. When it came to the issue of money, it was a one-man show. Even the treasurer was not aware of how she was operating and of who was funding her trips locally and internationally. When you asked, you became her enemy.”